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Extended commentary of 'The Convergence of the Twain' by Thomas Hardy

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Introduction

´╗┐The Convergence of the Twain (Lines upon the loss of the Titanic ? April 1912) On the Title: Hardy uses two interesting words: ?convergence? and ?twain?. A convergence is a meeting of two paths, or entities ? in this case, a collision! ?Twain? is an archaic word for ?two?, i.e.; both the ?Titanic? and the iceberg. Such a title immediately positions the reader to the direction in which the poem will go. Hardy is not, as many elegiac poems of the day were, preparing to mourn the loss of the ship and the lives upon it but rather proceeding to examine the philosophical nature of the collision; perhaps it was fated? The other current use of ?twain? was in the pseudonym ?Mark Twain,? made famous by the publication ? initially in England ? of ?The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? in 1886. Clems adopted the nom de plume to suggest ?uncomfortable waters? or ?tight navigation,? since two fathoms (?twain,? the sounding of a Mississippi deck-hand measuring the depth beneath the keel) would be dangerous for a steamboat. Background Information: The ocean liner ?RMS Titanic? famously sank, at two o?clock in the morning, upon the 15th April 1912. The disaster claimed 1,502 lives. Hardy was asked to write a poem to be read at a charity concert to raise funds in aid of the tragedy disaster fund. It was first published as part of the souvenir program for that event. Overall Structure: Hardy writes eleven regular triplet stanzas, with an AAA rhyme scheme throughout. The use of triplets allows for a more thorough exploration of ideas in each stanza; unified by the use of the rhyme scheme. ...read more.

Middle

labels the ship a vanity. What consequence does this have? This query, although appearing rhetorical, is answered by Hardy. Denoted by the use of ?Well?, he switches to a colloquial register ? this again adds to the sense of a Volta at stanza VI. Also note the sudden introduction of prominent enjambment at the end of the poem. The sense of stanza VI rolls into the VIIth, in direct opposition to the previous use of ?poetic closure? to end all previous stanzas ? Hardy normally uses a form of punctuation. Now it?s gone. Apart from being a ?change? in its innate self, the enjambment aids in increasing the pace of the poem. This is highly significant. Seeing as, from this point forth, Hardy creates a ?convergence of the twain? within the poem itself ? i.e.: he brings the two entities together (I will later explore this process in detail) from obscurity to the point of their collision ? then increasing the pace at which the two entities move (which is obviously determined by the pace of the poem) must bring them together faster. This adds to the sense of movement, of fast movement and of dramatic effect. Well done, Mr. Hardy. Note some language details: ?Creature of cleaving wing? is a very interesting phrase. ?Cleaving? has multiple meanings, all of which are appropriate to Hardy?s imagery. Primarily, he may be imagining the ship as it ?cleaves? through the water, as all good ships should do. Remember, in its day the Titanic was the fastest liner afloat. ...read more.

Conclusion

Hardy acknowledges this, but attempts to draw out the unified nature of the Twain, in the intrinsic act of their collision. Note that the usual use of ?august? to mean ?awe inspiring or admiration; majestic? is not intended by Hardy here in a positive way. He merely wishes to express wonder at the grand, if tragic, culmination of two great forces. And yes, it is rather melodramatic. * Hardy at lasts then returns to his Fated theme with the phrase ?The Spinner of the Years?. Reminiscent of the Classical Greek Moirai or the Roman Parcae (three old hags who would run, spin and cut the threads of life), Hardy refers to the middle of the three ? the Spinner. Spinning a mortal thread has always occupied a position in mythology. Hardy utilises it to draw out a sense of fate. Fate itself conducts the affair, it seems, given that the Twain act upon the word ?Now!? to converge. * Emerson Brown, scholar of medieval literature, pointed out that the poem is 33 lines long, whilst line 33 echoes the 33-year-old Christ?s last words: ?consummatum est.? In any case, when ?consummation comes?, Thomas Hardy sends 1,500 souls to the bottom with an obscene pun. To ?come? has borne a sexual connotation since the 17th century, at least, while consummation traditionally means the fulfilment of the marriage contract by intercourse. The image of the ?Titanic? and the iceberg copulating is hard to take seriously ? therefore we must question whether Hardy truly intends it. Nevertheless, it advances the idea of the twain existing in a marital bond. Note the sudden use of speech, in the present tense. Very dramatic. Brings the Twain together in Time for the last time! ...read more.

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